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John Moores drugs test under fire

Mephedrone plan 'pretty unethical', UK's top drugs adviser tells Commons

Published on March 24th 2010.

John Moores drugs test under fire

The Government’s chief drug adviser has described as “pretty unethical” plans by Liverpool John Moores University to recruit 50 human guinea pigs to take part in mephedrone tests.

Speaking just hours after the so-called legal high was implicated in another death – that of Lois Waters, 24, from Yorkshire – Professor Les Iversen, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, strongly indicated that the drug is likely to be outlawed later this year.

The advisory council is due to report to ministers on Monday, after which the Government can consider a ban. It would then be several months before changes to the law come into effect.

Professor Iversen's comments, addressed to the Commons Home Affairs Committee at Westminster, echoed remarks by Southport Liberal Democrat MP John Pugh who branded the study "highly irresponsible".

Dr Pugh said: "Following the deaths of two teenagers apparently from this drug and the subsequent announcement of a Government inquiry into its safety, it seems highly irresponsible for a university to be doing this."

Meanwhile, LJMU denied encouraging drug use and insisted – again - that it will only use people already intent on taking mephedrone, which is marketed and sold legally as plant food.

As the storm in a watering can continued, it put out a statement: "Fifty volunteers from across the UK who already take mephedrone will be asked to record their experiences of taking the drug, using standard research methodology which adheres to ethical guidelines.”

And Dr Cathy Montgomery, the psychology lecturer behind the research told the Daily Telegraph : "Until now, most evidence comes from people anecdotally. We will be holding structured interviews with users, asking them how they feel at different time points.”

In recent months, bouncers and police in Liverpool have apparently been at a loss to know what to do in the face of hundreds of clubgoers openly snorting the white powder while standing obediently in queues outside their doors at weekends. Is it cocaine, Miracle Gro? What?

Prof Iverson was clearer and told politicians that such drugs were “amphetamines by another name”.

Those other names range from M-Cat to “meow meow”. All of which would seem to confirm Dr Montgomery's reading of the situation: "Students here at John Moores tell us they prefer it over the drugs they were using before."

Well it does have the silliest name – dangerously innocuous some might say. If and when the research in Liverpool does get under way – one would hope those highly paid university boffins will at least teach the 50 kiddie cats how to spell it – in the non-primary-school-phonics way currently littering the press.

Miaow for now.

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